The Living Daylights

The Living DaylightSynopsis: Armed with razor-sharp instincts and a license to kill, James Bond battles diabolical arms merchants bent on world domination in this thrilling, lightning-paced adventure. Timothy Dalton brings energy, humor and ruthless cunning to his debut performance as Agent 007.

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Welcome to The Critical Eye’s ‘Mission Briefing Version’ commentaries of the James Bond movies.

Via thirteen key categories, over the course of the next few months we will rate and/or comment on each picture in brief. These MBV blurbs will also sometimes feature guest commentators, Bond fans and non-fans alike, thus offering a variety of perspectives on this iconic series.

We hope that you will enjoy TCE’s unique take on the world of 007.

The Living Daylights

1-
Opening sequence

The Thorn: 8.0 – When I first saw this in cinemas, as a kid, I was a bit disappointed: this wasn’t jaw-dropping and the a-ha song was too loud for me. Now, however, I really like the opening: it’s relatively realistic, exciting and Dalton makes a great first impression as Bond. The only thing that I didn’t like was that, after doing his smooth flip off of the yacht’s canopy, he casually throws away “Bond, James Bond”. And the woman isn’t as fetching (or as good an actress) as you’d desire her to be. Unlike ‘A View to a Kill, I like the credits sequence this time, and the a-ha track sounded AMAZING on blu-ray.

The Horrible Dr. B: 0 – Poor. Same combo of naked chicks shooting handguns and doing acrobatics as seen in the latest movies of the series.

***

2-
Story

The Thorn: 8.0 – I like that Bond is sent out to assassinate a sniper, that most of the work is espionage stuff, and that it revolved around drug running and illegal arms smuggling – it gave the picture a more realistic, gritty flair. Unfortunately, it also limited the producers’ options for making this an extravaganza, as we’d come to expect from Bond. I’d say that it had the potential of being as good a ‘For Your Eyes Only’, except that it loses steam towards the end, with the whole Mujaheddin segment – and even more so with the claustrophobic and dull Whitaker duel.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – KGB General Koskov creates a twisted scheme involving defecting to England in order to plant information that would lead England to eliminate Koskov’s rival Pushkin. Unfortunately the idea get stretched thin during the movie.

***

3-
Banter

The Thorn: 8.5 – Aside from some half-hearted exchanges between Bond and Kara, I liked the banter in this film. Bond continues to throw little one-liners, but Dalton’s delivery makes more acerbic than goofy (as Moore did it). So it really becomes a way for Bond to dissipate the tension he’s feeling, not to make people laugh. Sometimes his lines are just thrown away in the middle of other things happening, which made it more real – there weren’t close-ups of his googly-eyed face, head cocked to the side like a curious dog. This guy is more killer than clown.

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Bond does have some cheesy lines here and there, but Dalton doesn’t deliver them in a cheesy way as a comedian would delivers a punch line at the end of a joke. Dalton’s focus is not on the content of the line (and the comical impact of the line for us viewers), his focus is on maintaining his presence in the scene.

***

4-
Villains

The Thorn: 7.5 – This is a mixed bag. On the one hand, Koskov is perfectly slimy even if he’s not entirely convincing (he would have needed to be more severe to match Dalton’s Bond), and Whitaker is a good character that’s marred by a goofy performance. On the other hand, there’s Necros, who’s like a real-world Jaws: lethal, intelligent, capable. Plus he’s played by a Dolph Lundgren-esque guy (except good). And then there’s Pushkin, a decent red herring if ever there was one, but with an unremarkable presence.

The Horrible Dr. B: 0 – Koskov and Whitaker are really hard to take seriously. Im sure the actors are not bad, but Koskov’s acting kills the credibility of his obvious scheme, and Whitaker is just too cartoonish. The best villain is henchman Necros and his deadly walkman.

***

5-
Bond Girls

The Thorn: 7.5 – Another mixed bag. I like that Kara is naturally beautiful and seems like an ordinary woman. But she’s also kind of bland, defying Bond’s interest. Then there’s the new Miss Moneypenny, who’s too young and a poor actress. And let’s try to forget the woman on the yacht in the opening sequence. The most attractive woman of the lot, in my mind, is Pushkin’s partner, who has a natural grace and class.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Milovy is cute, but so naive and boring. She does have one good scene at the end where she decides to bravely go and save Bond by herself. Her naivety makes sense in the movie as both Koskov and Bond use her for their own need, but I don’t understand what Bond sees in her beyond his mission.

***

6-
Gadgets

The Thorn: 8.5 – Aside from the Aston Martin’s many accessories (see ‘Vehicles’ below), there were a few realistic gimmicks, such as a key-chain that releases stun gas, features an explosive and a universal lockpick), milk bottle bombs, an earpiece garrote, and a security alarm wristwatch. Thankfully, they did not use Q’s corny revolving sofa and ghetto blaster. And, by the way, I love the Walther sniper rifle that Bond he uses in the beginning; it meant business (which is a perfect match for this version of Bond)!

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – There are plenty of them. The best ones are in Bond’s car. The other main gadget featured in the movie is the car keys that get activated through whistling specific tunes; very handy when they have been confiscated by your enemy.

***

7-
Vehicles

The Thorn: 8.5 – I’m a huge fan of Bond’s Aston Martin V8 Vantage (Series 2) (which included a Police band radio, hubcap lasers, forward missile launchers, rocket propulsion, outrigger retractable skis, retractable tire spikes, a self-destruct mechanism and other goodies); it’s nice-looking car and it’s practical as all get-out. As for the rest, they’re mostly run-of-the-mill: a C-130 Hercules, Russian snow vehicles, a cargo plane and lots of army vehicles. And there’s the pipeline cab and cello case (sounds bad, but it actually works).

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Bond’s Aston Martin is really hot and packed with gadgets: although the laser cutter and pair of ski blades are a bit over the top. I really enjoyed the presence of various Russian military vehicles; tanks, jeeps, snowmobiles, etc.

***

8-
Locales

The Thorn: 8.0 – The Rock of Gibraltar, Vienna, Morocco, the English safe House, Whittaker’s mansion and War Room, do not make for a visually astonishing film, but it makes the film a bit more realistic. I think that this was the intention and it’s mission accomplished.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – England, Vienna, Tangier, Afghanistan: meh.

***

9-
Stunts

The Thorn: 8.0 – Excellent, credible stunts (skydiving, hanging out of a cargo plane in mid-flight, running on rooftops, car chases, …etc.), and Dalton did many himself, which adds a great deal to the scenes – so it feel more realistic than in previous films. But there are far too many scenes when the filmmakers used poor rear-projection to include him in the action. It’s not as bad as the late-period Moore ones, but still… was it necessary?

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Nicely done. As usual there are too much of them, and most of them unnecessary, but this problem appears more toward the second half of the movie.

***

10-Soundtrack

The Thorn: 8.0 – While it’s dated, what with its sequenced electronic tracks mixed in with the orchestra, it still sounds very sharp. And it’s a fitting swan song for composer John Barry, who never returned to the series after this. Adding to the mix is the fact that they had three songs in use as themes: the title track by a-ha and two songs by Chrissie Hynde – all excellent in their own right.

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Good use of music.

***

11-
Best Bond moment

The Thorn: It’s a tie between three of them for me: 1) As silly as it is, the violin case chase was really exciting. I don’t know how they pulled it off, ’cause it could have been horrible, but they made it work. 2) Bond using the tire-less wheel of the Aston Martin to cut a hole in the ice, thereby stranding his enemies (this one might have been helped by Barry’s score). 3) The scene in which Bond is readying to use his sniper’s rifle; it’s gritty and it turns Bond into a secret agent with teeth for the first time in a dreadfully long time.

The Horrible Dr. B: There are two: The first one is that Moore is not playing Bond anymore, and has been replaced by the excellent Dalton. The second is when Bond forces a lady to get naked in order to surprise a KGB agent and give himself a better fighting chance against the agent. Yay for creativity.

***

12-
Worst Bond moment

The Thorn: Could it be Q’s über-corny “Ghetto-blaster”? Or the notion that Bond would shoot right at Whitaker’s shielded gun instead of aiming elsewhere (something that has never sit still with me one bit – Whittaker is a big man!)? Either way, they were low points for me.

The Horrible Dr. B: The story. It’s too obvious and weak. The first half of the movie is interesting because we spend time discovering the scheme and people involved in it. However at the mid point we know everything and the plot fizzle. The second half is long and boring, packed with irrelevant action sequences.

***

13-
Overall impression

The Thorn: 8.0 – The ingredient that makes this Bond outing work is Timothy Dalton; his intense portrayal of Bond was a breath of fresh air after far too many years of Roger Moore’s “clown” Bond. He remains my favourite Bond, even if Connery is the classic (and is awesome in his own right). Dalton is a wicked actor and he makes Bond more three-dimensional, less of a caricature. I wish he had been on board earlier, and for a longer stretch. ‘The Living Daylights’ is a bit generic, but it has many excellent moments in it. Unfortunately, it takes a major tumble after the first 2/3, when Bond goes to Afghanistan, knocking it out of the running as one of the best Bonds of the series. I would possibly give the movie a 7.0-7.5 for the average viewer, but my love of Dalton’s Bond brings it up a few notches.

The Horrible Dr. B: 9 – This movie deserves a 9 because of one thing: Timothy Dalton. Dalton is a serious actor and his presence is phenomenal. He delivers a dark and serious Bond, closer to the Bond created by Ian Fleming. He really stands out in this picture, especially compared with Koskov, Whitaker and Felix Leiter. This is the Bond I want to see; now if the rest of movie (story, and other actors) could match the same level of seriousness and skill, that would be most satisfying.

James Bond will return inLicence to Kill

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